Take 5: JDR's Gaming Conclusions - 08/03/19

March 8, 2019
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A regular look at gaming-related stories from the past week or so whereby conclusions are drawn from anything and everything. These may be incredibly well reasoned based on events from the week. Alternatively, they may be highly speculative, drawn from very little evidence. More likely, they will be somewhere in between.

Conclusion One: The PS4 doesn’t have an Anthem yet

BioWare’s Anthem is not quite what people would have hoped. It needs to evolve soon or the platform will die a horrible death whilst Destiny, The Division and others feed off the carcasses left behind. Of course, that’s assuming there are consoles left working in the aftermath of Anthem.

Software will typically have bugs, especially these days. A benefit of coding for consoles though is that there are fewer combinations of hardware (let’s say two to four here, ignoring the PC version for now — PS4 and Xbox One), meaning less testing and fewer bugs as a natural consequence. You’d also hope pretty big bugs get caught well before version 1.xx of a game is released. Apparently, with Anthem, this didn’t happen.

If playing on PlayStation 4 there is a chance you’ll find your console powering down, or crashing when in the middle of something with no action on your part. At least there are no examples in the wild power down leading to a permanent bricking. Yet.

Still, the outcome is that an already less-than-stellar game will lose players when it needs them and likely never recover. So, we can only assume BioWare will go back to single-player RPGs and does a pseudo-Alpha Protocol that is better than anyone thought Mass Effect ever was. And then they do a KOTOR game, too. I can dream, can’t I?

Conclusion Two: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate creator is smashed

You know, as a rule I believe that people should enjoy a healthy work-life balance. If people are working too hard I have to question how they’re working, as well as why. If I understand the "why", and it makes sense, let’s change the "how" so you can do more, more quickly, more often and effectively, more smart (yes, I know — smarter).

So to hear that Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of Nintendo’s smash (ahem) hit Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, had some stomach problems and hooked himself up to an IV before HEADING INTO WORK is kind of ridiculous.

Very little is worth that, surely? Who knows what the longer-term effects of not really appreciating the issue and dealing with it properly could be. I recognise there could be instances in the world where people cannot stop what they’re doing due to ill health or similar. Those circumstances are limited, though: a doctor in the middle of emergency surgery with no-one else around who has the skills; people involved in some form of combat. Things like that.

I appreciate that Super Smash Bros. is amazing, but game development does not need people to be connected to an IV to ensure high quality gaming. He has taken steps to look after himself, though. He’s made sure he leaves the office by 10 PM every day. Oh, that’s alright then.

Conclusion Three: THQ Nordic needs an internal AMA

So, a little while back, THQ Nordic organised an AMA (ask me anything). Nothing wrong with that — quite the opposite in fact, given there’s a level of customer interaction and transparency to be found in these than is otherwise possible, at least on the same scale.

The issue here was their decision to do the AMA on 8chan. This is a website which was seen to be involved in things such as Gamergate, President Trump’s campaign for the White House and child pornography. Why THQ Nordic would want to run an AMA there, nobody could work out.

Apparently this was the case within THQ Nordic too, as the CEO has since come out and made a statement to the group, its employees and all consumers:

“This letter is to offer my sincerest apologies and regret for THQ Nordic GmbH Vienna’s interaction with the controversial website 8chan last Tuesday, February 26. I condemn all unethical content this website stands for. Even if no one within the THQ Nordic Group would ever endorse such content, I realize simply appearing there gave an implicit impression that we did.
As Co-Founder and Group CEO of THQ Nordic AB, I take full responsibility for all of THQ Nordic GmbH‘s actions and communications. I have spent the past several days conducting an internal investigation into this matter. I assure you that every member of the organization has learned from this past week’s events. I take this matter very seriously and we will take appropriate action to make sure we have the right policies and systems in place to avoid similar mistakes in the future.
As a Swedish based, fast growing group, we firmly support equality and diversity. We are also working actively to combat discrimination, harassment, and misconduct. We are already in the process of developing new work processes, based on the United Nations’ SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and using the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) standards, and we will accelerate this work going forward.”

What this transgression will have done to the group and the success of its games is yet to be fully realised, but the sheer scale of blunder here is impressive in and of itself.

It’s not like the history of 8chan was in anyway hidden from the world’s view. THQ Nordic being a company from a progressive part of the world indicates that its employees could have been expected to use better judgement than they did here. A full and complete investigation is good to see, but really, this was totally and simply avoidable and has probably done a level of damage irreparable to the brand and its equity.

Conclusion Four: Valve’s pressure rises again

Last year Valve decided to let almost anyone release games on Steam. We commented on this at the time, signing off with the following:

“The dissonance within the company is troubling, and Gabe Newell’s laissez-faire approach to the situation solves none of those issues. Yet as long as that 30% cut keeps rolling into the bank, are they ever likely to step up and make a moral stand?”

So perhaps, then, it’s no surprise that this week Valve has been involved in somewhat of a furore. This is all down to the previously imminent release of a game called Rape Day. Just the name alone sends shivers down your spine and it should be abhorred by any gamer. Things like that are just unacceptable. The game page on Steam detailed how you’d be able to rape and kill women in the game. Why the developer Desk Plant felt this was wanted/needed/right/sensible/acceptable/anything positive at all is lost on me. Utterly mental.

Thankfully sense has prevailed and the release on Steam has been stopped. Why, though, did it get this far? Valve’s "anything goes" policy has always been flawed and should frankly be damned. They may have practical challenges in managing submissions to their Steam store, but they chose to develop the platform and they have benefitted from it in the past fifteen years. Perhaps it’s a good thing that Epic, for example, are challenging their ubiquity and near-monopoly. It might knock more permanent sense into the heads at Valve.

Conclusion Five: Now you can pay-to-win in... Farming Simulator 2019

Being a farmer is hard work. The early starts. The horrible weather. The manure. Why bother, when you can farm from the comfort of your own desk instead?

Faming Simulator 19, the latest incarnation of the – frankly strangely – popular simulator games puts you in the driving seat of farming's most iconic machines. There’s the one with the big wheels and the small wheels. There’s the one with the spinny wheel that eats the field. Then there’s the… other one. With the wheels?

Anyway, there's great news for all you wheeled farming machine enthusiasts. There’s a new content DLC which drops a whole plethora of Anderson farming equipment into the game. There are tools for logging, like the M160 Loader and for animal care, like the A700 and A9650 Mixer.

These are all yours, for the low, low price of under a tenner. You can check out all of the equipment you can grab on the website here. Equipment which apparently includes delights such as portable Stargates and mobile animal prisons.

Time to get farming!

Wastelands' thrilling finale means it's a step up from Rules, but it makes a few missteps in its handling of the brothers’ relationship to get there.

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Shaun McHugh

In the winter of 1998, my father made a terrible mistake. He bought me a gift that would forever change my life. That gift? The DMG-01 Nintendo GameBoy. Since then, life has been a blur of consoles, gaming rigs, and modding it till it breaks.